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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Living Dead in Dallas (Southern Vampire Mysteries #2) by Charlaine Harris



When a vampire asks cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse to use her telepathic skills to find another missing vampire, she agrees under one condition: the vampires must promise to behave and let the humans that are involved to go unharmed.

Easier said than done.

My Review:

Living Dead In Dallas is the second novel in the Southern Vampire Mysteries series written by Charlaine Harris. In the first novel, we become acquainted with our heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, telepath and barmaid, who lives in Northern Louisiana. She has a vampire boyfriend and a seemingly normal life despite the murders and chaos that surround her. In this installment, Sookie is dragged further into the chaos of the vampire world.

The book begins with our small-town girl doing what she believes she does best: bartending at Merlotte’s. Andy Bellefleur, a local cop, is at the bar getting drunk after a hard day. Sookie does the responsible thing after reading his mind, she takes his keys away before getting him a final drink and calling his sister, Portia, to pick him up. Bill Compton, her vampire boyfriend, comes in for a visit and everything seems like it’s Sookie’s normal routine. When Sookie comes to work the next morning, she expected to see Andy’s car in the parking lot, but what she didn’t expect was finding her co-worker dead in the backseat.

While it can, at times, seem overly dramatic, I have to say it is an interesting way to catch the reader’s attention and let you know immediately that things in Bon Temps (which means “Good Times” in French) aren’t as safe as the small town scenario might lead one to think. Sookie immediately tells her boss, Sam (who we found out in the last book was a Shape Shifter) what she discovered. Police are called in and things get hectic, but Sookie stands by and answers questions about the murdered employee, Lafayette.

We find out the recently deceased was gay, and was a bit on the promiscuous side as he’d recently attended an orgy. While there were awkward moments in the scene –such as Sookie either trying to be a smart ass by answering sarcastically, or just being too uneducated to answer the police properly- the scene was full of information that helps solve the mystery in the latter half of the book.

After seeing her co-worker dead in Andy’s car, Sookie struggles through her day. She has plans later in the evening to go to a meeting with boyfriend, Bill Compton (coined Vampire Bill by the locals). In the midst of a heated argument, on the way to a meeting at the vampire bar, Fangtasia (owned by vampires Eric and Pam), the car they are driving stalls out. Sookie, being stubborn as hell, leaves the car and is attacked by a supernatural creature which is new to the series. Sookie is rushed to Fangtasia to be treated for her near fatal injuries.

At this point, we learn about the new supernatural creature called a Maenad. For those of you who are a little rusty on your Greek Mythology, a Maenad is a female follower of the god Dionysus who is best known for his madness, orgies, and love of a good party. This is the moment when the book splits. There is obviously danger in Bon Temps, but Eric – who happens to be Louisiana’s vampire Sheriff of Area 5) requests Sookie’s unique telepathic skills to track down a missing vampire in Dallas, Texas, promising to take care of things at home. So Sookie leaves her friends, family, and town behind for a few days in hopes of helping to find this missing vampire in Dallas.

We find out rather quickly that things in Dallas are very shady. There is an anti-vampire church, called Fellowship of the Sun, which Sookie must infiltrate to find the missing vampire, Farrell. There are a few things about the trip that excited me. First of all, Sookie meets another telepath, Barry. Second, Eric accompanies them on the trip under the alias, Leif. For Sookie’s sake, she is lucky Eric chose to accompany her and Bill on the trip because Eric has several meaningful moments with Sookie that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

After all the drama in Dallas is over, it is time to return to Bon Temps where the Maenad is still hanging around with her giant hog. But Sookie puts this issue aside and decides to find out who killed her co-worker, Lafayette,  by going to an orgy.

Since Bill is out of town on business, Sookie enlists Eric’s help, and he agrees to attend the orgy with her.

Eric wastes no time in trying to seduce Sookie, and resisting him proves to be quite a challenge. The Manead then reappears, and everything ends in a spectacular finale.

Living Dead In Dallas is an improvement from the first book of the series, Dead Until Dark, but the heroine of the story still seems a bit naïve for a world she has been roaming around in for months. I am sure in time there will be personal growth, but it seems far off. A major redeeming factor of this book was the interaction between Sookie and Eric. The beginnings of a love triangle are forming and there is no way to deny it.

I give Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris a solid three kisses. While I have a feeling the best is still yet to come, it is an improvement from the last book; it also has enough action and some mystery to keep you reading.

The book is really set up as two separate stories in one. You have the Dallas mystery and the Bon Temps mystery, both of which are solved by the very end. It is odd to split a book like that in my opinion, especially when the heroine of the story is portrayed as caring more about her friends and family than a trip to another state. If there had been one solid direction or this book had been two separate stories, I would have easily been able to give it four or five stars.


1. Action (with a chase scene included)

2. New Supernatural elements are introduced

3. The beginning of a love triangle between Eric, Sookie, and Bill is truly forming

4. Eric and Sookie’s trip to the orgy, a truly unforgettable moment

1. Sookie can still be annoying at times. Her attempts at snark and sass can often be described as immature instead of playful.

2. While the books are labeled a mystery, there is often not a lot of mystery involved.

3. Bill Compton is a little suspicious. His actions during the shooting scene in Dallas have me questioning him quite a bit.


"I could be bisexual?" Eric asked. It didn't seem to bother him; he seemed, if anything, amused. We stood by Eric's car, facing each other, my hands stuffed in the sweater pockets.

"Okay." I shrugged. Who cared? This was make believe. I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. Someone was watching us through a partially raised shade. "We're being watched."

"Then I'll act friendly."

We were out of the car by that time. Eric bent, and without yanking me to him, set his mouth on mine.

He didn't grab me, so I felt fairly relaxed. I'd known that at the very minimum I'd have to kiss other people. So I set my mind to it.

Maybe I had natural talent, which had been nurtured by a great teacher. Bill had pronounced me an excellent kisser, and I wanted to do him proud.

Judging from the state of Eric's Lycra, I succeeded.

"Ready to go in?" I asked, doing my best to keep my eyes above his chest.

"Not really," Eric said. "But I suppose we have to. At least I look in the mood."

Though it was dismaying to think that this was the second time I had kissed Eric and that I had enjoyed it more than I should, I could feel a smile twitch the corners of my mouth as we crossed the bumpy ground of the clearing. We went up the steps to a large wooden deck, strewn with the usual aluminum folding chairs and a large gas grill. The screen door screeched as Eric pulled it open, and I knocked lightly on the inner door. "Who is it?" Jan's voice said.

"It's Sookie and a friend," I answered.

"Oh, goodie! Come on in!" she called.

When I pushed open the door, all the faces in the room were turned toward us. The welcoming smiles turned to startled looks as Eric came in behind me.

Eric stepped to my side, his coat over his arm, and I almost hooted at the variety of expressions. After the shock of realizing Eric was vampire, which everyone in the room did after a minute or so, eyes flickered up and down the length of Eric's body, taking in the panorama.

"Hey, Sookie, who's your friend?" Jan Fowler, a multiple divorcee in her thirties, was wearing what looked like a lace slip. Jan's hair was streaked and professionally tousled, and her makeup would have seemed in place on stage, though for a cabin by Mimosa Lake the effect was a bit much. But as hostess, I guess she felt she could wear what she wanted to her own orgy. I slid out of my sweater and endured the embarrassment of receiving the same scrutiny Eric had been given.

"This is Eric," I said. "I hope you don't mind me bringing a friend?"

"Oh, the more the merrier," she said with undoubted sincerity. Her eyes never rose to Eric's face. "Eric, what can I get you to drink?"

"Blood?" Eric asked hopefully.

"Yeah, I think I've got some O here," she said, unable to tear her gaze away from the Lycra. "Sometimes we . . . pretend." She raised her eyebrows significantly, and kind of leered at Eric.

"No need to pretend anymore," he said, giving her back look for look. On his way to join her at the refrigerator, he managed to stroke Eggs's shoulder, and Eggs's face lit up.

Oh. Well, I'd known I'd learn some things. Tara, beside him, was sulking, her dark brows drawn down over dark eyes. Tara was wearing a bra and panties of shrieking red, and she looked pretty good. Her toenails and fingernails were painted so they matched, and so did her lipstick. She'd come prepared. I met her eyes, and she looked away. It didn't take a mind reader to recognize shame.

Mike Spencer and Cleo Hardaway were on a dilapidated couch against the left-hand wall. The whole cottage, basically one large room with a sink and stove against the right-hand wall and a walled-in bathroom in the far corner, was furnished in cast-offs, because in Bon Temps that was what you did
with your old furniture. However, most lake cabins would not have featured such a thick soft rug and such a lot of pillows tossed around at random, and there would not have been such thick shades drawn at all the windows. Plus, the knickknacks strewn around on that soft rug were simply nasty. I didn't even know what some of them were.

But I pasted a cheerful smile on my face, and hugged Cleo Hardaway, as I usually did when I saw her.

Granted, she had always been wearing more clothes when she ran the high school cafeteria. But panties were more than Mike was wearing, which was not a stitch.  Well, I'd known it would be bad, but I guess you just can't prepare yourself for some sights. Cleo's huge milk-chocolate brown boobs were glistening with some kind of oil, and Mike's private parts were equally shiny. I didn't even want to think about that.
Mike tried to grab my hand, probably to assist with the oil, but I slithered away and edged over to Eggs and Tara.

"I sure never thought you'd come," Tara said. She was smiling, too, but not real happily. In fact, she looked pretty damn miserable. Maybe the fact that Tom Hardaway was kneeling in front of her smooching up the inside of her leg had something to do with that. Maybe it was Eggs's obvious interest in Eric. I tried to meet Tara's eyes, but I felt sick.

I'd only been here five minutes, but I was willing to bet this was the longest five minutes of my life.

"Do you do this real often?" I asked Tara, absurdly. Eggs, his eyes on Eric's bottom while Eric stood talking at the refrigerator with Jan, began fumbling with the button on my shorts. Eggs had been drinking again. I could smell it. His eyes were glassy and his jaw was slack. "Your friend is really big," he said, as if his mouth were watering, and maybe it was.

"Lots bigger than Lafayette," I whispered, and his gaze jerked up to meet mine. "I figured he'd be welcome."

"Oh, yes," Eggs said, deciding not to confront my
statement. "Yes, Eric's . . . very large. It's good to have some diversity."

"This is as rainbow as Bon Temps gets," I said, trying hard not to sound perky. I endured Eggs's continued struggle with the button. This had been a big mistake. Eggs was just thinking about Eric's butt. And other things about Eric.

Speaking of the devil, he snugged up behind me and ran his arms around me, pulling me to him and removing me from Eggs's clumsy fingers. I leaned back into Eric, really glad he was there. I realized that was because I expected  Eric to misbehave. But seeing people you'd known all your life act like this, well,

it was deeply disgusting. I wasn't too sure I could keep my face from showing this, so I wiggled against Eric, and when he made a happy sound, I turned in his arms to face him. I put my arms up around his neck and raised my face. He happily complied with my silent suggestion. With my face concealed, my mind was free to roam. I opened myself up mentally, just as Eric parted my lips with his tongue, so I felt completely unguarded. There were some strong "senders" in that room, and I no longer felt like myself, but like a pipeline for other people's overwhelming needs.

I could taste the flavor of Eggs's thoughts. He was remembering Lafayette, thin brown body, talented
fingers, and heavily made up eyes. He was remembering Lafayette's whispered suggestions. Then he was
choking those happy memories off with more unpleasant ones, Lafayette protesting violently, shrilly . . .

"Sookie," Eric said in my ear, so low that I don't think another person in the room could've heard him. "Sookie, relax. I have you."

I made my hand stroke his neck. I found that someone else was behind Eric, sort of making out with him from behind.

Jan's hand reached around Eric and began rubbing my rear. Since she was touching me, her thoughts were absolutely clear; she was an exceptional "sender." I flicked through her mind like the pages of a book, and read nothing of interest. She was only thinking of Eric's anatomy, and worrying about her own fascination with Cleo's chest. Nothing there for me.

I reached in another direction, wormed into the head of Mike Spencer, found the nasty tangle I'd expected, found that as he rolled Cleo's breasts in his hands he was seeing other brown flesh, limp and lifeless. His own flesh rose as he remembered this. Through his memories I saw Jan asleep on the lumpy couch, Lafayette's protest that if they didn't stop hurting him he would tell everyone what he'd done and with whom, and then Mike's fists descending, Tom Hardaway kneeling on the thin dark chest . . .

I had to get out of here. I couldn't bear it, even if I hadn't just learned what I needed to know. I didn't see how Portia could have endured it, either, especially since she would have had to stay to learn anything, not having the "gift" I had.

I felt Jan's hand massaging my ass. This was the most joyless excuse for sex I had ever seen: sex separated from mind and spirit, from love or affection. Even simple liking.

According to my four-times-married friend Arlene, men had no problem with this. Evidently, some women didn't either.

"I have to get out," I breathed into Eric's mouth. I knew he could hear me.

"Go along with me," he replied, and it was almost as if I was hearing him in my head.

He lifted me and slung me over his shoulder. My hair trailed down almost to the middle of his thigh.

"We're going outside for a minute," he told Jan, and I heard a big smacking noise. He'd given her a kiss.

"Can I come, too?" she asked, in a breathless Marlene Dietrich voice. It was lucky my face wasn't showing.

"Give us a minute. Sookie is still a little shy," Eric said in a voice as full of promise as a tub of a new flavor of ice cream.

"Warm her up good," Mike Spencer said in a muffled voice. "We all want to see our Sookie fired up."
"She will be hot," Eric promised.

"Hot damn," said Tom Hardaway, from between Tara's legs.

Then, bless Eric, we were out the door and he laid me out on the hood of the Corvette. He lay on top of me, but most of his weight was supported by his hands resting on the hood on either side of my shoulders.

He was looking down at me, his face clamped down like a ship's deck during a storm. His fangs were out. His eyes were wide. Since the whites were so purely white, I could see them. It was too dark to see the blue of his eyes, even if I'd wanted to.

I didn't want. "That was . . ." I began, and had to stop. I took a deep breath. "You can call me a goody two-shoes if you want to, and I wouldn't blame you, after all this was my idea. But you know what I think? I think that's awful. Do men really like that? Do women, for that matter? Is it fun to have sex with
someone you don't even like?"

"Do you like me, Sookie?" Eric asked. He rested more heavily on me and moved a little.

Uh-oh. "Eric, remember why we're here?"

"They're watching."

"Even if they are, remember?"

"Yes, I remember."

"So we need to go."

"Do you have any evidence? Do you know what you wanted to find out?"

"I don't have any more evidence than I had before tonight, not evidence you can hand out in court." I made myself put my arms around his ribs. "But I know who did it. It was Mike, Tom, and maybe Cleo."

"This is interesting," Eric said, with a complete lack of sincerity. His tongue flicked into my ear. I happen to particularly like that, and I could feel my breathing speed up. Maybe I wasn't as immune to uninvolved sex as I'd thought. But then, I liked Eric, when I wasn't afraid of him.

"No, I just hate this," I said, reaching some inner conclusion. "I don't like any part of this." I shoved Eric hard, though it didn't make a bit of difference. "Eric, you listen to me. I've done everything for Lafayette and Andy Bellefleur I can, though it's precious little. He'll just have to go from here on the little snatches I caught. He's a cop. He can find court evidence. I'm not selfless enough to go any further with this."

"Sookie," Eric said. I didn't think he'd heard a word. "Yield to me."

Well, that was pretty direct.

* * * * *



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K R Y S T L ERed lips


  1. the orgy thing was hilarious. Die Scumbill Die.

  2. The best part of the book, IMHO! I love Laffy, but I'd personally kill him - no hesitation - if only we could have gotten to see this scene *sad Julie*


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